Filmanthropy: Where Are They Now?


At Picture Motion, we take great pride in the talent and new ideas brought to us by our interns. This blog post is brought to you by Jessi Dixon, from our Washington, DC office.    

Every month, the Picture Motion team chooses a documentary Kickstarter campaign to support as part of its ongoing Filmanthropy initiative. The goal of Filmanthropy is to financially support filmmakers, while helping raise awareness about up and coming films and the issues that they address. In this blog, we’ll revisit three of our past Filmanthropy efforts and see where they are now!  

  1. Living Los Sures – February 2015 (by Alexandra Pearson)

Produced over five years by 60 artists at UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art, Living Los Sures is an expansion of the 1984 documentary Los Sures about the southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York. Living Los Sures was chosen because it is a story made by the community to ensure their history is preserved and told.

Thanks to their 484 backers, Unidocs raised $33,096, surpassing the original goal of $30,000. The completed reimagining of the film included 40 short films and an interactive documentary 89 Stepsfollowing Marta Aviles from the original film. It also included the interactive Shot by Shot website. UniDocs brought together a group of filmmakers and artists who used individual shots from the original film and used them a jumping off point for a new short story or an update of Los Sures by gathering memories, images, videos and stories from the local residents.

Since its completion, UniDocs has been using the Living Los Sures curriculum for New York high schools by introducing students to the fundamentals of documentary filmmaking and collaborative production using Living Los Sures as a model, and inspiring students to create short trailers of their own.

To check out the Shot by Shot project, 89 steps documentary and the Short Docs visit their website. To find a screening near you, check local listings  here.

  1. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution – April 2015 (by Megan Ryan)

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature length documentary to showcase the Black Panther party and its significance in American culture. The film examines the rise of the their party during the 1960’s and impact on civil rights. Veteran director Stanley Nelson’s film goes straight to the source, using archival footage and interviews with Black Panther members, journalist, and even FBI Informants.

With the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the story of the Black Panthers could not be more relevant. The Black Panther Party was created out of the need to challenge police brutality and monitor the systematic killing of black people at the hands of police officers. Black Lives Matter created a national dialogue about police killings of African-Americans and the continued systematic racism towards blacks today. Black Lives Matter is fighting the same fight as the Black Panthers, and this film demonstrates the similar struggles of the two movements.

Through their crowdfunding campaign, Nelson wanted to raise $50,000 for a nationwide, theatrical distribution. In 30 days the Kickstarter raised $62,745 which allowed the film to have its theatrical release in September 2015.

The Black Panthers premiered on PBS Independent Lens to an audience of 1.8 million – making it the highest rated Independent Lens documentary of 2015 The online conversation also also included a high number of engaged participants, with #BlackPanthersPBS reaching more than 1 million people on social media. Additionally, the film screened over 54,000 times on PBS’s Video Player in just two days.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution was just nominated for an Emmy for Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for the 2016 Awards. To purchase the film visit their website.

  1. The Maya Angelou Documentary – November 2015 (by Emma Ho)

In November 2015, Picture Motion contributed to Maya Angelou And Still I Rise, the first feature documentary about the life of the legendary poet, artist, singer and activist. The film chronicles Angelou’s life through the Jim Crow South, the Civil Rights, the Women’s and Art Movements. Co-Director Rita Coburn Whack, was Angelou’s radio producer and had unprecedented access to the poet which allowed the crew to interview Maya Angelou herself before her passing in May 2014. In addition they were able to speak with family, friends, political figures and other influential figures who were impacted by Angelou’s life and legacy. The film was chosen because of Angelou’s commitment to social activism and her ability to inspire others to participate in social actions campaigns.

Maya Angelou And Still I Rise has been on a roll since their crowdfunding campaign raised $153,346, exceeding their original goal of $150,000. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, receiving a standing ovation from the 600-person strong audience, and has subsequently screened at multiple festivals in the U.S., and around the world in Bermuda, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland and many more.This film has been well received by critics and audiences alike, winning the Audience Award at AFI Docs Film Festival (Washington, DC), Cinetopia International Film Festival (Detroit) and Encounters Film Festival (Capetown, South Africa), where it also took home The Best International Documentary award. In addition, the film won Best International Documentary at the Galway Film Festival (Galway, Ireland) and the Director’s Choice Awards at the Illuminate Film Festival (Sedona, AZ).

In his Democratic National Convention Speech, Senator Cory Booker referenced Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” Senator Booker altered the phrase to, “America, We Will Rise” as a slight history lesson of America, always rising above hate and tough times and how that will continue in the future. Maya Angelou’s words have inspired generations and through this film we are able to preserve her story and inspire generations to come.
The film is continuing to be screened around the world. To see where the film goes next visit their website and follow the film on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


By Jessi Dixon, Intern in Washington, DC

Jessi is senior at Boston University majoring in public relations and minoring in political science. At Boston University she is a part of the BUPRSSA where she writes for the blog, a student manager for the Scarlet Safewalk and an Account Manager for Unleashed-PR, Boston University’s own student run PR agency. She is also involved in the Boston University Pep Band. Prior to joining the Picture Motion team, Jessi was an External Relations intern at Pace Suburban Bus Company in Arlington Heights, IL. Born in Chicago, IL her interests include sports, entertainment, and politics: particularly social justice. With her desire to affect change in the world and her love for movies, she is excited to be a part of the Picture Motion team.